Wednesday was the first session in our shared Lenten Study with Prince of Faith on Unlocking the Growth by Michael Harvey. Thanks to Pastor Reg for leading the study this year! This first session focused on the Introduction and chapter 1. Michael Harvey begins with a reference to 1 Corinthians 3:7: “I [Paul] planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.” In the context in which Paul wrote these words, a community was tearing itself apart over whether they were “Paul’s community” or “Apollos’s community” – and Paul says to them: “in fact, you all belong to God. It was God who did that thing in your hearts that brought you to be part of this community today – not Paul, not Apollos: God.” And so today Michael Harvey says to us: you are all members of a church community, not because of any one pastor, or evangelism effort, but because God was doing something in your life on that day you decided to walk through the door.
God gives the growth. God is out there in the world, at work in people’s hearts and lives. However, we in the Church “lock down” that growth – we accidentally (and sometimes purposefully) do things that makes it less likely someone will come try out our church. What if we were to recognize those things we do, and stop doing them – stop interfering with what God is doing in people’s hearts, and “unlock” the growth God gives? This is what this book is all about.
Michael Harvey writes, “I think we have a curse hanging over the church today…. The mindset which talks about those outside church and says: ‘if they wanted to come, they would come.’…. But we must remember what a difficult step it is for many just to walk through the door [of the church] without having been invited in. It takes a very brave (or perhaps desperate) person to come into a church building on their own nowadays, but this doesn’t mean that God is not at work in the lives of these people. He is just asking us to connect with the work He is already doing.” (p. 26-27) We do this simply by learning to invite someone we know to come with us to church.
And immediately we have reasons why we wouldn’t do that! Probably the #1 reason why most people would say they’d never invite someone to church is “what if they say no?!” But God does not ask us to force people to come to church, just to invite them. God gives the growth; God is the one at work in people’s lives. It is up to God and that person what their answer will be – all we’re asked to do is be the one who invites. We’re not responsible for the answer! Friends, when we get really clear about what is our responsibility, and what is not our responsibility, there’s a lot of freedom to be found there!
As Pastor Reg pointed out on Wednesday evening, there’s a fair number of people who might be open to an invitation to come to church. Potentially 49% of Canadians who aren’t part of a church right now, might be open to some kind of connection. And people from other faiths are not always offended to be invited. In fact, experience at St. George’s suggests people are often rather curious about what happens in a church service. If they receive an invitation that opens the door, they might just be persuaded to give it a try, even as a cross-cultural experience.
Next week, we look at the very honest reasons why most people will say they will never invite someone to church! This is Michael Harvey at his best: he treats people’s reasons with honour and respect, and asks us: what if God is calling us to do something just a little scary (but which is otherwise entirely safe), to deepen our journey of faith?
Join us Wednesday night, 6pm for soup supper; 7pm for the study. For next week (Mar 20) want to read chapters 2 and 3 in Unlocking the Growth.
God bless for a good week friends!